Transition Illawarra is a series of engagement and evidence-based activities led by RDAI to identify and promote economic diversification in the Illawarra.2014 saw the prioritising and implementation phases of the Transition Illawarra Report presented by Deloitte Access Economics in December 2013. A funded project officer progressed implementation of many of the 29 recommendations of the report, with a status report provided in September this year.

This key study and the action that followed directly addressed RDAI's goal of enhancing economic development through industry diversification, with specific relevance for strategic priorities of infrastructure, broadband and workforce skills development. Recommendations covered transport, housing, health and ageing, business and workforce development and tourism.

The report provides an evidence base for consultations on infrastructure proposals and the regional planning process. A key outcome has been the provision of a usable blueprint to guide the region's transition from reliance on industrial production to a service, digital and knowledge-based economy. The cooperative partnerships formed have proved to be enduring and expressed in other cooperative efforts in the interests of regional economic development. 

Copies of the report can be accessed below:




The Illawarra economy has traditionally experienced a high share of ‘blue collar’ occupations relative to other regions. This is historically owed to the region’s strong mining and manufacturing base, however in the past 10 years the majority of the growth in employment has been in service based sectors such as Health and Education.

Transition Illawarra recognises that the Illawarra economy is in transition, however it requires assistance to change and grow to meet the demands and opportunities ahead. A Stakeholder Reference Group was established following the downsizing of Bluescope in 2011. This group identified a need to understand the transition and be able to respond to the employment impacts and industry change.

Therefore the group devised the Transition Illawarra project. It is a three stage project on the economy of the region; comprising of Wollongong LGA, Shellharbour LGA, and Kiama LGA. The first component of the project is a research study on the economy. It specifically looks at the industry composition of the region now and forecasts future projections; identifying growth sectors and sectors requiring assistance. Further, the report identifies 29 recommendations to implement to assist the economy in transition.


Links to the Report


Implementation Plan

Stage two included prioritising the recommendations and developing a comprehensive implementation plan. The plan has been developed and it highlights four key projects that RDA Illawarra will focus on over the coming 12 months:



The Transition Illawarra report highlights a number of transport infrastructure projects that, if built, would contribute to the development of the Illawarra economy such as Maldon to Dombarton Freight Link, faster road links to Sydney, and faster rail links to Sydney to name a few. In order to progress these projects RDA Illawarra has decided to capture the status of each of the big ticket projects and track their progress. This includes identifying the road blocks and working with multiple stakeholders to solve the challenges and secure progress. Further, RDA Illawarra will work with regional stakeholders to identify, support, and secure funding for other infrastructure projects as they arise. Details of the project can be found here.



An ageing population is a significant driver for growth in the health and ageing industry. Between 2006 and 2011 there was a 25% growth in employment in the sector. For the industry to continue to grow there are several challenges to overcome. The industry will require the expertise and support of other industries to realise the potential. RDA Illawarra will focus on addressing the challenges to growth and connect other industries to the opportunities in a growing health and ageing sector. We are working with Aged Care Illawarra Workforce Action Group to address workforce challenges, holding events to expose other industries with opportunities in health and ageing, and understanding the health and ageing infrastructure needs of the region.


The purpose of this project is to deliver employer-led strategies to minimise skill shortages (quantity and quality) within the Aged Care, Disability, and Community Services sectors. information provided outlines the employer led activities, project actions, and stakeholder commitments that will be undertaken as part of this project. Details of the project can be found here.


The Illawarra’s closest and easily accessible market is Sydney. The Transition IllawarraReport identified attracting visitors and workers to live and play in the Illawarra will help boost the economy. The Illawarra already has some successful tourist attractions (i.e. Skydive the Beach, Bald Hill Hang-gliding, Illawarra Fly, JamberooAction Park etc.). Destination Wollongong has lead the charge by connecting the adventure attractions in the region and creating a vision of an adventure destination for Australia. RDAI supports this campaign and can see a significant benefit to the region if we all get behind a brand that more closely connects us with Sydney and encourages visitors to the region. RDA Illawarra will work with all local tourism organisations to support a coordinated tourism campaign that connects the region together and attracts the Sydney market.



Transition Illawarra identifies that the Illawarra economy is changing. It recognises that traditional industries of mining and manufacturing are reducing in their dominance and that health and ageing, and education are growing sectors of employment and economic development for the region. This transition is happening as a matter of global and nation circumstances, however knowing that this change is happening allows us to prepare for change and define the outcomes.  

The region has two opportunities: 

  • Take charge of what our transitioned economy looks like, devise and implement programs that support it and promote the successful transitioning stories; and  

  • Reinvent our image from “A steel town, heavily industrial and limited potential for growth.” to “A diverse, innovative and vibrant economy that is worth investing, visiting and living in”. 

The truth is that the Illawarra has a diverse economy and a strong desire to grow. To be attractive for investment and a desired place to live, the Illawarra needs to continue to be innovative and promote the success stories to change the perception of the region to businesses seeking to expand markets, workers looking for an enjoyable lifestyle and political leaders and decision makers affecting the region.  

RDAI will focus on activating the general community in the discussion about what our future should look like, unearthing ideas about what is and could be done, supporting innovative, creative and entrepreneurial ventures, and recruiting people to promote a new image to potential investors, potential visitors and potential residents.  



The implementation of these projects is currently underway. To discuss any of the Transition Illawarra projects please feel free to contact the RDA Illawarra office.


Transition Illawarra Full Report Transition Illawarra Executive Summary